To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, an organization co-founded by former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge to study UFOs and other “mysteries of the universe,” may be on the verge of collapse.
According to a biannual financial report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month, the company has accumulated a $37.4 million deficit and “these factors raise doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” The financial document was first reported by Ars Technica.
To the Stars hired a number of ex-government officials from agencies such as the CIA and NASA, as well as industry officials who had worked on secret corporate aerospace programs, but its plans to generate revenue were less successful.
In September 2017, the company began selling $50 million worth of stock to fund its operations, and its website claims to have a total of 2,547 investors. According to the SEC filing, however, To the Stars has only sold a little over $1 million worth of stock to date. This was part of a Regulation A+ equity crowdfunding campaign, a new type of crowdfunding that became legal in 2015. Because it has public, non accredited investors, To the Stars is required to file financial reports with the SEC.
The company has managed to rack up a $37.4 million deficit, much of which was accumulated in 2017. According to the SEC filing, as of last June, To the Stars only had $129,000 in cash, but plans to continue operations for at least another year by selling more stock.
DeLonge founded To the Stars in 2014 as a media and entertainment company that specialized in books and entertainment media about UFOs and other unexplained phenomenon. In 2016, DeLonge launched “Sekret Machines,” a multimedia project involving films, music, and books that was under the To the Stars umbrella. The first book in that series, Chasing Shadows, was published the same year.
In 2017, To the Stars became the “entertainment division” of a larger holding company called To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, which wholly owns To the Stars. In addition to producing entertainment products, this larger company would also participate in the investigation of UFOs and other fringe science projects.
When To the Stars began selling its $50 million worth of stock in September 2017, it published a circular that detailed the risks of the company’s business so investors could make an informed decision about whether to put money into the company. Among risks listed by the company include the failure of beamed energy propulsion launch systems, potential problems arising with researching telepathy on human subjects, and the fact that many of the technologies or phenomena being researched by the company are based on highly speculative theories that toe the line of pseudoscience.
That circular also noted that share prices were “arbitrarily set by the company and the valuation is high. Valuations for companies at this stage are generally purely speculative, and even more so in our case.” The company also said that it has to pay DeLonge and several other companies and entities a minimum of $100,000 each in royalties per year, regardless of whether it has sold anything or not.
“We are considering projects that are cutting-edge or extremely speculative, with many unknowns,” the company wrote. “Even with adequate funding, we may fail to produce a commercially viable product.” To the Stars did not immediately return a request for comment from Motherboard.
Despite To the Stars’ money troubles and its unorthodox research agenda, the SEC document cites a few successes over the past year, namely: it launched a website, took meetings with “strategic partners, including the U.S. government,” released a novel, and “prepared to launch the ADAM research project to investigate materials relevant to its future plans in Space Time Metric Engineering.”
This last project is meant to investigate the nature and origin of exotic materials that are claimed to have come from UFOs and are supposedly being stockpiled in a warehouse in Nevada. To this end, To the Stars partnered with EarthTech, a research firm connected to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin, Texas. These research labs were founded in the mid-80s by Harold Puthoff, who formerly directed a CIA investigation into paranormal abilities.
According to the filing, To the Stars entered into an agreement with EarthTech in August to work on both materials analysis and “beamed energy propulsion launch systems.” This is related to the organization's goals of working on space time metric engineering, this is a theoretical form of advanced propulsion that would allow for faster than light travel. It has previously been investigated by some members of the NASA team trying to build an Em-Drive.
Unfortunately for DeLonge and his collaborators, their hopes of researching exotic propulsion and extraterrestrial material science may be dead in the water unless they can figure out a way to raise capital for their efforts.
Correction: The original story mis-characterized To the Stars' deficit as debt. Unlike debt, which involves borrowing money, deficit is spending more money than you bring in with revenue. In this case, To the Stars spent $37.4 million more than they brought in with revenue. Motherboard regrets the error.